Background: Childhood is a high-risk period for skin damage due to excessive sun exposure. This damage may lead to skin cancer later in life.
Methods: The present study measured children's knowledge and attitudes, and reported usual behavior relevant to sun protection and parents' encouragement of their children's sun protection among a sample of 735 primary school students and their parents, in Victoria, Australia. The incidence of sunburn among the children over late spring and early summer was monitored weekly for 8 weeks.
Results: The results indicate that children's knowledge of sun protection is moderately high and that positive sun protection attitudes, reported frequency of parents encouraging protection, and children carrying out sun protection are generally high. Trends for age indicate that while knowledge of sun protection increases with age, attitudes and behaviors supportive of sun protection decline. Sunburn rates increase with age. There was some evidence to suggest that children with fairer coloring receive greater encouragement from parents to protect themselves and are marginally better protected than children with darker coloring. However, this highly susceptible group still suffers more burns. There was little variation based on children's gender.
Conclusions: The mid-primary school years may be a critical time for interventions promoting sun protection.